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West Ham failed Dimitri Payet by not building around him

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Many knew that West Ham had pulled off a coup by signing Dimitri Payet last summer, but it wasn’t clear until a year later what a rare gem they’d found.

After Payet’s stunning debut season in the Premier League, a season that saw him score nine goals and assist 12 more while dazzling England with his brilliant technical ability and sparkling distance shooting, he now finds himself suddenly unwelcome at the gates of West Ham’s new home.

With West Ham 13th in the Premier League table and struggling for consistency, Payet has stunned Hammer fans by refusing to play for the club and asking for a transfer.

From nearly all angles, this is a horrible look from a player who was rescued from Marseille by Slaven Bilic and brought back to life during his time at West Ham. It appears on the surface that the player has turned his back on a club and fanbase that embraced him when life was good. Bilic wasn’t even asked about Payet when he revealed the situation, he simply went off in a press conference, a rare situation that describes just how betrayed by Payet the manager feels.

But a deeper dive into West Ham’s recent past shows why Payet has become disenfranchised just half a season later and why the player may not be shouldering all the blame despite the ugly optics.

This summer, West Ham found itself the proud owner of a legitimate franchise player; a player who suddenly burdens the club with his own expectations. This is not to say Payet gave West Ham any sort of ultimatum, but in this situation, the Hammers now have the expectation to be good enough for such a player. It is the responsibility of the club to perform to the standards of the player, just as it is the responsibility of the player to bring the club his best. In short: they must build around their superstar. We see countless times a club’s best player leave because that club was either relegated or fell below the player’s ambitions.

Dimitri Payet proved last season that he’s better than 13th place in the Premier League, and he’s proving this season that despite the club’s struggles, he is still as good as he was. As a Player of the Season candidate, it’s obviously his responsibility to replicate that form, and he has, leading the Premier League in chances created and key passes and rated the 5th best player in the league by Squawka’s rankings.

Here is where West Ham failed the Frenchman: it is also on the club to provide him with the best environment to replicate that form. Let’s review the ways West Ham went about that process this past summer:

  • They purchased Andre Ayew for $26 million, by all accounts a solid purchase at the time – if not an expensive transaction – but one that has not paid off at all. Ayew has battled injuries and poor service to the return of a single goal in 12 appearances.
  • They spent $13 million on Manuel Lanzini, a player expected to pull some weight off Payet’s shoulders in the attack. Instead, he’s been a significant disappointment as well, dazzling the crowd at times, but coupling those performances with his fair share of horror shows.
  • West Ham spent $8 million on Arthur Makuatsu, a forced purchase after starting the season without a healthy left-back. Makuatsu was bad and then got hurt, and has made just six appearances thanks to the return of Aaron Cresswell.
  • They brought in Sofiane Feghouli, Alvaro Arbeloa, Ashley Fletcher, and Havard Nordveit on free transfers. Feghouli has been good at times but hasn’t been consistent enough to see the field, the 33-year-old Arbeloa has been hurt, Fletcher hasn’t made the squad, and Nordtveit has struggled with discipline.
  • They brought in Simone Zaza, Gokhan Tore, and Jonathan Calleri on loan. Zaza couldn’t even muster a single goal before getting hurt and wanting out, Tore was a solid get but got injured early, and Calleri hasn’t started once and hasn’t seen the field since October.

There’s no doubt the Hammers have had horrible injury luck this season, with Gokhan Tore’s knee operation maybe the most difficult to swallow, but the bottom line is this: the Hammers didn’t do nearly enough this summer to prove they mean business. While other clubs around them got better, West Ham instead looked for value buys and spent big on flops. Subsequently, they have felt the difficult consequences to their actions. The defense has been porous and the service up front has been limited. Dimitri Payet’s 72 chances created are an enormous 52 more than anyone else in the West Ham squad and represent 35% of the team’s total of 204. Simply put, it’s on Payet to do it all, and that’s why he wants out.

Make no mistake that Dimitri Payet’s decision to distance himself from West Ham still reflects poorly on his character. As the second time he’s pushed for a transfer away from a club of significant size (also pushing his way out of Marseille when West Ham came calling), this is clearly heavy baggage he is now forced to lug around the rest of his career. However, the club is not absolved of blame in this situation. Who knows what promises were made to Payet when he signed a contract extension this summer through the summer of 2021. With a new stadium meant to catapult West Ham “to the next level,” little attention was paid to the future product on the field. Fans should be just as disappointed with the board and staff as they are with the player.

10-man Red Bulls hold off Atlanta United at home

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Atlanta United’s five-game winning streak went up in smoke as the New York Red Bulls pulled off an incredible 1-0 victory.

Playing down a man for around 65 minutes, the Red Bulls shutout Atlanta United’s high powered offense in front of 18,495 fans at Red Bull Arena. Tom Barlow, in just his second appearance with the Red Bulls, scored the game-winning goal in the 65th minute off a header at the far post, one that left U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Brad Guzan rooted to his line.

[READ: Pep: Domestic Treble harder than UCL]

Tim Parker was shown a straight red card in controversial fashion, after grabbing Josef Martinez’s left arm with Martinez in front of him just outside the box. Martinez was clearly pulled back but continued running and eventually got a shot off that Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles parried away.

Referee Robert Sbiga then decided to call the play back and award Atlanta United a free kick outside the box. After what seemed to be consultation with his assistants, Sbiga then showed Parker a straight red card, likely for denial of a clear goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) while Martinez was through on goal.

The outcome is a massive one for the Red Bulls. It’s been a rough season, with the loss of both Jesse Marsch and Tyler Adams and the poor form of Bradley Wright-Phillips up top. Wright-Phillips was out on Sunday and another attacker Andreas Ivan, went off with an injury in the first half as he was about to be substituted off anyways following the red card.

Alejandro Romero Gamarra, Kaku, has made his feelings known that he wants (or wanted) to leave the club. His form hasn’t been stellar this season either.

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s finally found its way back into the win column and is looking more like the juggernaut from last season, especially with five-straight shutout wins. It’s all back to zero today though, with the defeat at the Red Bulls on a perfect grass pitch up a man.

Mbappe hints he could leave PSG

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Kylian Mbappe accepted his award as the Ligue 1 MVP, dedicated it to Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, and then mentioned he could be off soon to another club.

Wait, what?

Yes, following Mbappe accepting his award, the French star and World Cup winner stated he hoped he could continue his career at PSG but left open the possibility of moving to another club that allows him to take the next steps in his career.

[READ: Kompany to join Anderlecht as player-manager]

“This is a very important moment for me, I arrive at a first or second turn of my career,” Mbappe said, via L’equipe. “I’ve discovered a lot of things here, I feel that maybe it’s time to have more responsibility. I hope it may be at Paris Saint-Germain, it would be with great pleasure, or perhaps elsewhere for a new project.”

Mbappe later clarified his comments, stating he was looking for more responsibility. “If it’s at PSG, that’s good. If it is elsewhere, it will be elsewhere for a new challenge.

“For me, it was time to say it. I am someone whole: when I say something, I think it. For me, it was the right time to say it. That’s it, I said it!”

It’s unclear why exactly Mbappe used this moment to put some pressure on PSG. Perhaps its to remind them that the club needs to be successful in its transfer endeavors this summer, so it can compete deep into the UEFA Champions League. With Neymar injured and a central midfield ravaged by injuries, PSG capitulated and somehow fell to Manchester United in the Champions League Round of 16, grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

There’s no reason why PSG can’t dominate the Champions League like it does Ligue 1, especially with the attacking trident of Mbappe, Neymar and Edinson Cavani. But of course, against better competition, the inferiority in mentality and in talent along the backline has started to show.

So, where could Mbappe go? There’s very few places that could effectively match both his salary and his competitive goals. It’s the usual suspects, Real Madrid, Barcelona, and perhaps Manchester City, should they be interested in it. More recently, while Man City has spent big, it’s been on signing multiple players on $50 million transfers, as opposed to one player on a $200 million transfer, for example.

It’s unlikely, but an intriguing option would be Liverpool. If the club somehow came up with the funds, imagine Mbappe playing alongside Sadio Mane and Mo Salah, with Roberto Firmino coming in to spell either of the three over the course of the season. Mbappe would likely make up that one-point difference between Liverpool and Man City, and if that’s what it takes for Liverpool to finally win the title, it could be worth the initial massive investment.

Messi finishes season leading La Liga in goals, assists, and more

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Lionel Messi turns 32 this summer, and after more than a dozen years of first team soccer, playing more than 50 games a season, the old man’s still got it.

The Argentine star, playing his first season in almost a decade without direct competition from Cristiano Ronaldo, scored twice as Barcelona tied Eibar, 2-2. The two goals gave him 34 for the season, by far the most by any player in the league, and his 50th in all competitions.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Messi also led La Liga this season with 13 assists, 136 shots, 85 shots on target and 70 through balls. In terms of successful dribbles, Messi’s 132 fell seven short of Celta Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal.

Messi’s 34 goals gave him his sixth Pichichi, the trophy given to the league’s leading scorer. Messi is now tied with legendary Telmo Zarra for the all-time record of most Pichichi’s, and Messi is now three ahead of Ronaldo.

As if Messi wasn’t already a legendary player, the man seems to be showing no signs of slowing down. It may have helped that he skipped matches with Argentina after the 2018 World Cup this past fall, keeping him fresh for Barcelona. Even so, the man looks as good, if not better, with age.

Messi already holds the record for most goals in league history, and at this rate, he’ll set it to a level that will be almost impossible to reach. While he’s going to be remembered for his incredible control on the ball, it doesn’t hurt that he’s been incredibly productive during his career, including in 2018-2019. Barcelona won the league title with ease and the club made the UEFA Champions League semifinal. If for some better defending, Messi could be contesting for another Champions League title.

Nani scores twice as Orlando City thrashes FC Cincinnati

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Nani may not be the star he once was while he played for Manchester United, but he’s still making a powerful impact in MLS.

The Portuguese international scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season as Orlando City ran circles expansion side FC Cincinnati, winning 5-1. Along with Nani, Tesho Akindele scored a brace and Dom Dwyer came off the bench and scored a header in the win.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Aside from having a chance to record a big win over a struggling side, Orlando City may have been ultra motivated on Sunday. Orlando City manager James O’Connor has history with FC Cincinnati from his time at Louisville City, with intense rivalry matches taking place as well as arguments between O’Connor and former FC Cincinnati coach Alan Koch on the sidelines.

FC Cincinnati actually went up early with a Darren Mattocks finish past Brian Rowe, but it didn’t take long for Orlando City to respond. Akindele fired home from 20-yards out in the 37th minute to make it 1-1. Early in the second half, Nani scored on a penalty kick rebound to make it 2-1 to the hosts, and then he added a second off a cross from the right to blast the game wide open.

With the win, Orlando City moved just one point outside of a playoff place, while Cincinnati remains in the basement of the Eastern Conference. However, Orlando City has a difficult road ahead, with matches against the LA Galaxy, Montreal Impact and D.C. United to come.